The Messenger :: Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

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As we’ve been building through the year in The Messenger on how to tell our story well, we’ve also been focusing on who plays what roles in the story. The story is not ours, it’s God’s. And He has called us to play a role just as He has called others to join with us in His story in varying capacities. 

For May, we have Andy Johnson , the newest addition to the MRN team as our Church Equipping and Prayer Director, sharing some thoughts on our individual supporter relationships . We pray this issue will be a blessing to you and the story God has called you to be a part of! 

Better Together: Addressing Disciple Maker Resiliency and Attrition

Understanding Individual Supporter Relationships

Hindsight is a funny thing. Looking back, if I had been on my own Missions Committee, I may never have sent me to the field. 

As to a plan, we knew two things: Where we were staying the night we flew into Burkina Faso and the name of the village we hoped to live in. We had no idea where we would spend Night #2, nor how we would ever get to that village. 

As to funding, we were short. Very short. Planning-to-eat-lots-of-rice-and-beans short.

As to zeal, well, that we had aplenty…right until the power went out during Night #2, taking all the moving air (and my zeal) with it.

Thankfully, the church that oversaw our work had faith in a God that seemed to delight in honoring Himself through our weaknesses!

We eventually survived Night #2, made that village our home for a dozen years, and enjoyed a wonderful season of God’s provision through His people. One of the perks (and peculiarities) of being sent by an overseeing church rather than an agency is that our support ended up being cobbled together. Churches composed about two thirds of our financial support, while individuals and families made up the rest of the mosaic.

Although I still have much to learn, I learned a few things about individual supporter relationships during our time on the field that I think may be helpful to you :

  • First, you as a missionary are not a beggar. You are not standing with your hat in your hand, hoping for the scraps that fall from someone’s table. Nor are your supporters patrons, magnanimous givers who want you to cater to their desires or definitions of missionYou are partners. God has given you a specific calling into which you have invited your brothers and sisters in Christ who send rather than to go.

  • Second, celebrate the benefit of being sent by individual families. It is a good and beautiful thing to be sent by a church. It is also a beautiful thing to know that individual families choose you, and those to whom you’ve been called, over another night out or a bigger TV. Several families that supported us made writing their check a monthly ritual with their kids, sitting down to pray for our family and the tribe with whom we worked. When you are far from your passport country and both your zeal and the electricity have left once again, it is a good thing to know you are loved and prayed for in individual homes.

  • Third, find creative ways to engage your supporters. For instance, an old mountain biking buddy of mine never became a regular contributor to our work, but he committed to getting me everything I needed to keep my bike in good working condition (a commitment he might have reconsidered had he seen west African roads ahead of time!). We also had several thoughtful, future-oriented supporters who contributed monthly to our retirement or to a house fund for us. Every time ministry expanded into new areas, we were always thrilled to see friends jump in to care for orphans, pay for translation projects, or help with water-well rehabilitation. 

  • Fourth, invite them into your lives. I always delighted in those moments when people I cared about in different places and circles came to know each other. Good things almost always followed.

  • Finally, don’t allow your support to be a one-way relationship. Yes, your supporters want to pray for you and those with whom you serve. But you also need to discover how best to pray for them. Yes, your supporters want to hear the stories of what God is doing where you are. But you also need to share their stories with your brothers and sisters in your local context. God is honored and His church is built up when His stories are told across borders, and you are perfectly positioned to be a part of that!

Cross-cultural living is hard, but in my experience, the blessing of having individual supporters in your life can go a long way to making at least some parts of it more comfortable and more God-honoring. Especially when the air stops moving and the zeal disappears again!

MRN lives to serve. If we can help you in anyway, please don't hesitate to reach out .